Internet overhaul for the humble landline


woman on the phone

The technology that currently powers landline phones is due to be extinguished in 2025 – but don’t panic, you can still have a handset in the hallway if you want.

The public switched telephone network (PSTN) is a modern take on 19th-century technology – it’s what connects your home through a copper cable – but its days are numbered, according to Openreach, which has already started. to work on the tipping.

UK landline operators will switch all UK home phones to an internet connection instead of traditional copper wire landlines. In total, 14 million lines are affected.

Here’s what we know about how it will all work.

What happens to the old fixed network?

PSTNs around the world have been modernized several times but still operate on the same principle – making direct connections between phones through an intermediate exchange.

Initially, PSTN copper cables also carried Internet connections to people’s homes.

But this has been increasingly replaced by fiber optic cable.

Internet communications also mean that landlines themselves have become less popular.

And a survey, in April, suggested that 40% of people in the UK had stopped using them altogether.

Telecommunications companies also claim that older PSTN equipment is expensive to maintain and that call quality could be improved by routing landline calls through internet connections instead.

“The traditional analogue landline signal is carried over copper – that is what it is,” says James Barford of Enders Analysis.

“And so if you switch to fiber, you have to do something else and [voice over internet protocol (VOIP)] is the obvious. “

However, old landline phones will still work after network changes.

And unless they move to another part of the country, most people will keep the same phone number.

The handsets also won’t need to be replaced – existing phones will be connected to a different system behind the scenes.

But you may need to plug your phone into your internet router or a new wall outlet.

When will this happen?

Openreach, which operates the UK’s telephone and internet network, has already started switching people to VOIP connections.

The company launched a trial in Mildenhall, Suffolk, earlier this year.

New landline customers can only purchase VOIP connections.

And Openreach is planning hundreds of similar trials for exchanges in UK cities this year and next.

Will I need an Internet connection to use my landline?

Once the PSTN is completely switched off, if not before, you will no longer be able to make a phone call via a landline without an Internet connection.

However, you will be able to use your existing broadband connection for landline services.

And if you don’t have a high-speed internet connection, you should, according to telecommunications regulator Ofcom, be able to purchase a simple connection, rather than having to pay for broadband services.

What if I cannot access a broadband connection in my area?

“No one will be cut off,” said a representative from Openreach.

And you can continue to use an existing analog service unless you upgrade or change providers. However, after 2025 this will eventually disappear completely.

Ofcom says 2% of households in the UK cannot access a basic 10Mbps broadband connection.

But Ben Wood of CCS Insight says, “For the vast majority of people, the landline is nothing more than an annoying fee that they have to pay when they want to access the Internet.

Will Internet calls be less reliable?

Many companies have already had VOIP phone systems for quite some time.

And customers shouldn’t notice a drop in quality from the PSTN system, says Barford.

“They should be at least as good, if not better,” he said.

After switching to digital TV, some viewers noticed blocks in their picture.

But voice calls require a relatively small amount of data.

And modern internet connections should be able to handle them well.

What if there is a power cut?

Older landline phones are powered via the line itself, which is separate from the home electrical network, and often remain functional even in the event of a power failure.

Internet phones, however, rely on home routers or similar devices.

Ofcom, however, requires telephone operators to provide back-up solutions to ensure that people can call emergency services.

Virgin, for example, intends to offer battery-powered backup lines to customers with accessibility needs or who cannot rely on a cell phone during a power outage.

The battery offers 24 hours of standby and one hour of talk time.

And an engineer will install a small box in the customer’s house so that they can connect.

Are traffic lights affected?

woman at level crossing

woman at level crossing

In addition to landlines, many systems currently rely on the PSTN, including:

And they will all have to switch to fully digital alternatives.

“All of these services are dependent on the voltage supplied by the PSTN – and all will need local batteries in addition to an Internet connection, once the network is shut down, some requiring more complex solutions,” the Crown Commercial Service notes in an article. published online last year.

A spokesperson for Transport for London, for example, told BBC News that 1,000 of its 6,400 traffic lights are currently monitoring remotely using PSTN technology – and that it has set up a group working group exploring options for replacing telecommunications services.

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